Spectacular Coca-Cola 600 Pre-Race Show to Honor Generations of U.S. Military Through the Air, Across the Ground and on the Stage
The Let Freedom Race pre-race show for the May 30 Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway will feature a spectacular tribute to generations of men and women who have served, are currently serving or have made the ultimate sacrifice in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Coca-Cola 600 pre-race festivities will honor veterans from World War II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War and more modern-day conflicts including Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, as well as active military currently serving worldwide. Special fly-overs, static displays and decorated heroes from each era will be featured as part of the festivities.
“This will be our biggest pre-race show yet,” said Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. “For five decades the Coca-Cola 600 has been a Memorial Day tradition for race fans. It’s only fitting that we kick-off the most patriotic race event in America with the most patriotic salute through the air and on the ground we can give to the men and women who protect our freedoms.”
The Let Freedom Race Coca-Cola 600 pre-race show will start at 3:50 p.m. with a parade of force protection military vehicles. Video presentations produced by The History Channel highlighting World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War will be played on the speedway’s Sprint Vision screens. A P-51 Mustang owned by Roush Fenway Racing founder and co-owner Jack Roush, and a legendary B-17 bomber that played the role of Memphis Belle in the 1990 movie of the same name will fly over the speedway following the World War II video. A giant C-47 transport plane will follow the Korean War video, with an A1-H Skyraider and a T-28 Trojan airplane flyover scheduled to follow the Vietnam War presentation.
A video honoring active war troops and veterans will be played, followed by a target demolition simulation by U.S. Army special forces troops from Fort Bragg, N.C., that will include Little Bird and Blackhawk helicopters and a pair of 105 mm Howitzer guns. Following completion of the demonstration, 600 additional soldiers from Fort Bragg will march down the frontstretch.
Medal of Honor recipients Robert Maxwell (World War II), Ronald Rosser (Korea) and Charles Hagemeister (Vietnam) will then be recognized on the pre-race stage. A tribute to honor the families of fallen soldiers from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C., including Captain Thomas “Lag” Gramith and Captain Mark “Pit Bull” McDowell, who was from Charlotte, will follow.
Singing the national anthem before the Coca-Cola 600 will be Charlotte native Cpl. John Hyland, who lost his leg in Iraq during a reconnaissance mission on Sept. 11, 2007. Hyland received the Purple Heart for his heroism and service. A life-long NASCAR fan, Hyland worked as a guest services employee at Charlotte Motor Speedway and is a trained opera singer who has performed at the Opera Festival di Roma in Italy.
Just before the national anthem, more than 100 family members of Fort Bragg soldiers will unfurl the American flag in front of the pre-race stage.
The final fly-over before the start of the race will include four F-15 Eagles flown by pilots from the 333rd Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
Additional pre-race festivities for the Coca-Cola 600 will include performances by the U.S. Army drill team and the 82nd Airborne Division Chorus; the arrival of the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team; a 21-gun salute by soldiers from Fort Bragg; a bagpipe performance of “Amazing Grace” by the Charlotte Fire Department Pipe Band; and “Taps” played by a Fort Bragg bugler.
Also during the pre-race festivities, retired U.S. Army Col. Walter Marm will be honored with the Stonewall Jackson Award. Presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway annually since 1992, the award recognizes standards of patriotism through personal support of the military and personal service to sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty.
The only 600-mile event on the NASCAR schedule, the Coca-Cola 600 tests the endurance of both drivers and equipment and provides fans more entertainment value than any other race in America.
Tickets for all May races at Charlotte Motor Speedway can be purchased online or by calling the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS. Friends and family four-pack tickets start at just $39.75 per person for the Coca-Cola 600 and at $35 per person for the NASCAR Sprint All Star Race on May 22. Interest-free payment plans are available.